The Minissima. It seemed such a nice idea

ER Classics Desktop 2022

The Minissima was a small concept city car that was designed by William Towns (as Townscar) in 1972 as his suggestion for a replacement for the Mini. The Minissima was shown by BLMC at their stand at the London Motor Show in 1973 after BLMC took over the prototype from Towns.

Smaller than mini

Just like the Mini, the Minissima had 10 "wheels and the BMC A-series engine. It was about an 75 centimeter shorter than the Mini and the idea was that it could be placed across a parking space. Even in the early 1970s it was already very busy in some cities. The car only had one door. And it was at the back. The two occupants in the front looked forward for practical reasons. The passengers were sitting backwards against the two fronts and so looked back. It has not become clear to us how the two front-seat passengers should be put in their places, but our archive gave us no explanation about that.

It remained a suggestion

Obviously, the Minissima has not wiped the Minis off the map. A few years later the idea reappeared as a prototype of an invalid car. William Towns had simplified the styling to allow for mass production. At the time, the concept was taken over by the firm GKN Sankey from ex-Ford technician Fred Hart. At the rebirth, the vehicle was equipped with central steering so that the disabled driver could drive in it from the back with his wheelchair. There was therefore also provided ramps for driving in. Think of what has become a success: the Canta. So it could have been. Despite the fact that the design was awarded a Style Council award in 1978, the whole project fell through. Government subsidy was needed to achieve production. And because the production costs were quite high, the idea did not get that money.

From the City, to a bicycle manufacturer

GKN put the case on display and the abandoned project was bought for a good deal by Elswick, a British bicycle manufacturer. Between 1981 and 1987 some copies were sold under the name Elswick Envoy.

But that didn't really deserve that either. So for the successor of the Minissima, the Envoy, the plug went out. It was the end of a funny idea. But ultimately a waste of investment and a belief in the result. In addition, it is funny that the bicycle manufacturer still exists and flourishes to this day. But the Envoy experiment is neatly erased in their history books.

Still a worthy goodbye

The highlight of its existence was the Minnissima / Elswick in 2007. Then a documentary of just under half an hour was made, called 'Elegy (mourning song) for the Elswick Envoy. And that documentary won the first prize in 2008 at the Aspen Shortfest Festival. But whether that was a happy ending?

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